Saturday, June 29, 2013

Doing the car-lot hop

When I noted that the used car I was sitting in smelled strongly of cigarette smoke, the car salesman nodded, shifted the toothpick to the other side of his mouth, and said, "Yep, folks does smoke in their cars. Nothing you can do about it."

Somehow, this sales pitch did not fill me with confidence, and neither did the salesman's habit of impinging upon my personal space. You know how sometimes overladen students lose track of the size of their backpacks and wallop unsuspecting strangers in the hallway? This salesman seemed utterly unaware of how far forward his belly extended. He looked like a man trying to smuggle a VW Beetle under his shirt. (Maybe that's how he acquires his smelly cars.)

In my continuing mission to replace my ailing Volvo, I've visited more than a dozen car lots in the past two weeks, including six today, and I can divide the car salesmen I've encountered into two basic groups: those who earned high marks at the "Join Our Family!" training sessions and those who did not.

The JOF! guys (and yes, they're ALL guys) wear khaki pants and golf shirts, display wholesome family photos on their desks, and talk about their family connections. "My father-in-law drives a car just like this," they say, or "The manager's wife has been driving this car and she's crazy about it." This morning I listened to a very pleasant fellow talking about his family's long history in the car business and the tremendous things they've done for the community, which would be great if I were interesting in joining a cult rather than buying a car.

The car salesmen who haven't drunk the JYF! Kool-Aid don't bother with the family patter; in fact, some of them don't bother with any patter at all. Some of these car lots must be surrounded by a force field rendering all unaccompanied women invisible.

Several lots were manned by guys whose customer service skills lacked polish, to put it kindly. In one, a gentle giant finally said to me, "No ma'am, I don't believe you'll find anything like that anywhere around here," which was better than the guy who just laughed in my face. What? This isn't rocket science: all I'm asking for is a reliable four-door sedan with under 75,000 miles on it for a price I can afford. (With cup-holders!)

One kind of sales pitch came up at two different places today and I'm not sure how to interpret it: "I used to work at one of those high-pressure dealerships but I had to leave because I'm really not comfortable with high-pressure sales." Is this a sincere statement eschewing high-pressure sales pitches or a high-pressure sales pitch cleverly disguised as a sincere statement eschewing high-pressure sales pitches? If I ask the salesman, would he be able to answer?

Yep, folks does smoke-screen their cars. Nothing you can do about it.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

The imp of improvisation

Grampa's little muse
Last night my son-in-law banged out chords on the piano and improvised a silly song about baby Elizabeth, and soon we were all adding verses about the things she does so well: She sleeps! She smiles! She swims through the air! She can simultaneously sneeze and burp! (Snurp? Beeze?)

This, among other reasons, is why we need babies: they inspire improvisation. I sang to my children all the time when they were babies and don't seem to have suffered from my tone-deaf renditions. Just take a familiar tune and alter the words to reflect whatever we're doing right this minute--which explains the number of songs dealing with excretion. (Yesterday I frequently heard a song proclaiming, "She poops and she pees and she dances with the trees"--a masterpiece in the making!)

When my daughter was a toddler, she used to love to sit on the piano bench next to Daddy and pound on the keys while singing at the top of her lungs, generally the same words and notes over and over with no relation to what Daddy was playing at the time. And yet it was music to my ears, and the memory remains music to my inner ear.

Now here we go round the mulberry bush once again, holding a tiny but feisty person who wields a remarkable power to draw music from thin air. You could call her the Imp of Improvisation--but if she sneezes and burps at the same time, you'd better get out of her way.  

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Sparrow safari

Grasshopper sparrow
I knew I'd made a convert when I saw my husband creeping stealthily through tall grass like a hunter intent on bagging his first rhinoceros--but then he slowly lifted the camera and snapped a photo of a sparrow.

I generally don't take my husband on birding expeditions (busy schedule, other priorities, etc.), so I warned him this morning that he ought to take a book in case he got bored while my birding-and-botanizing buddy and I stalked reclusive sparrows.

These weren't just any sparrows: they're the Henslow's sparrow and the grasshopper sparrow, both tiny species that have recently returned to grassland habitat on restored strip-mining land at The Wilds (more here). Both sparrows hide well in tall grass and their calls are so soft that they're easily mistaken for insects buzzing, so we spent a lot of time standing at the roadside with hands cupped around our ears just listening intently--a pursuit distinctly lacking in moments of high drama.

Henslow's sparrow (my husband's shot)
I was fetching something from the car when my B&B buddy spotted the Henslow's sparrow, but by the time I got back to the prime viewing spot, the camera was gone and my husband was sneaking at a crouch through the tall grass.

We saw meadowlarks and horned larks, kingbirds and red-winged blackbirds and barn swallows and possibly even bobolinks, but to my eyes the most amazing sight was my husband stalking the elusive sparrow. I need to take the man birding more often--and get the man a camera!

Reclaimed strip-mining land at The Wilds

Monday, June 24, 2013

Blame it on the eagles

It was an eagle that initially inspired me to buy a canoe. I was standing on the shore of the Ohio River trying to watch a pair of eagles nesting way out on an island, but the birds looked mostly like tiny dark blurs. I suddenly realized that the only way I'd get a better look at those birds was with a canoe.

Today our canoe took us where eagles nest, but not on the Ohio River. Our paddling skills aren't quite up to the demands of that busy commercial waterway, so we've confined ourselves to small, secluded fishing lakes where speedboats aren't allowed. Today, though, Seneca Lake tested us with wind, waves, wakes, and waterskiers--and we passed with flying colors. (Mostly red. A little sunburn.)

Seneca Lake is big and surrounded by campgrounds, cabins, and boat docks, but early in the morning a broad stretch of placid water stretched before us with just a few fishing boats in sight. We ventured toward a distant shore where a long cove stretched into state park land, ducking our heads to get the  canoe under the bridge at the head of the cove.  

There's no chance anything taller than a canoe coming into Cadillac Cove, so we spent the morning exploring clear to the end, where a stand of water lilies nodded in the breeze at the head of a creek that twisted far back into woods so quiet and dense we felt like intrepid explorers opening virgin land.

Fish leaped and slapped the surface of the lake while dragonflies and electric-blue darning needles danced among the water lilies, sometimes connecting up and copulating in midair. And eagles circled, two of them, luring us from one side of the cove to the other and back again. 

When we finally ducked under the bridge again and re-entered the main lake, we faced a challenge: paddling into a sudden strong wind while staying out of the way of waverunners and negotiating wakes. And then we could not at first find the boat launch, so by the time we pulled in, we were simultaneously exhausted and exhilarated. We did it! And if we did it once, we can do it again!

The eagles are calling. How soon until I can go see them again?    

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Journey into the future

The movie theater looks different when the lights are up--the seats cracked and faded, the floor stained, the armrests sticky. Turning up the lights transforms the endless cavern of adventure and romance into a tired, dingy room, and not a very big one at that.

Which is a good thing because the whole place has to be cleaned before the service starts. I arrive early to hear my son practice with the worship band but church members have been there for more than an hour already posting signs, setting up equipment, and cleaning floors. I don't sit down until they finish swiping each sticky armrest with a Clorox wipe.

The Journey Church is very different from my normal worship experience. Our little country churches rely on recorded music or an elderly piano player plinking out traditional hymns; at Journey, a live band very ably leads the congregation through thumping choruses. I am generally among the younger worshipers at our country churches (unless someone's grandchild shows up), but at Journey, I'm old enough to be the mother of more than half of the worshipers--including the pastor.

Casual clothes rule around here even on Sunday morning so it's no surprise to see jeans and shorts, and it's kind of cute when the ushers passing the communion elements wear matching bright orange Journey Church T-shirts. The pastor wears hip black jeans and a white shirt (untucked, no hint of a tie), and while he exudes a casual, regular-guy vibe, he clearly knows his stuff, exegetically and hermeneutically speaking. 

He tackles a complex issue that has tripped up theologians through the centuries--the meaning of suffering--while explicating the question in the book of John, "Who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?" He throws his whole body into the sermon, exuding authority even while admitting the limits of understanding, and his careful, orderly explication opens doors and lets light stream in.

I enjoy attending my son's church for a change not just because it's a different kind of experience but because I can be a different kind of person there. In our country churches, I am inescapably The Pastor's Wife. No matter how much I want to be just little old ordinary me, everything I say or do is weighed against the congregation's expectations for how The Pastor's Wife should act or what The Pastor's Wife should say.

At Journey, I'm introduced as Steve's Mom, a role I'm happy to play because all it requires is that I beam proudly when people tell me how much they appreciate him. I'm not expected to offer an opinion on the latest denominational hi-jinks, nor am I expected to get up and play the piano (which is a good thing for all concerned).

I can't go to my son's church every Sunday because a Pastor's Wife has to do what a Pastor's Wife has to do, but it feels good to take a break from the usual and experience worship from a different perspective--from a theater seat instead of a pew. One of our country churches is furnished with pews assembled more than a century ago by people long dead using hand-made square-head nails that still hold up; I can look out the window and see the cemetery and remind myself of the many people who poured their lives and talents into that church over the years. Our country churches thrive on their connection to the past.

At Journey, I see the future in the children scurrying toward the nursery and the young people carrying equipment, playing instruments, and cleaning floors. This is not your father's worship service--but it may well be your son's.

When the chips are down (or up!)

common yellowthroat
I'm standing in our upper meadow trying to distinguish among various types of chip--not potato chips but the sharp chipping noise many birds make. Bird books transcribe the sound as chip, sssip, or tzip, but they agree that it never sounds like cheep.

So many birds make this sound that it's tough for a rank amateur to distinguish their subtle differences, but I'm learning by looking. Metallic chip coming from the very top of a tree up the hill: indigo bunting, too skittish to let me get close enough for a good photo (so I'll settle for a bad one). Louder woody-sounding chip from deep within the tangles of a gnarly old apple tree: could be a cardinal, but closer inspection reveals a brown thrasher. Quick little chips from among a mess of saplings: common yellowthroats, not at all spooked as long as I walk slowly.

Indigo bunting
But what about the other chips and calls I hear but can't connect to a specific bird? They'll have to wait for another day. 

Brown Thrasher

Friday, June 21, 2013

We are driven (irrationally)

Am I capable of buying a totally inappropriate car just to spite a patronizing car salesman? 

Maybe. Car-shopping is making me just that irrational.

I test-drove two cars today and I probably won't buy either one for various reasons, none of them very convincing. In fact, as I compare cars, I find myself putting an inordinate amount of weight on utterly irrational factors.

Today I drove a sensible, dependable, comfortable, affordable car that meets all my specifications AND sat on a used car lot where the salesman treated me so well I want to buy a car from him just to reward his niceness, but I probably won't buy that car. Why not? 

I don't like the color.

I do, however, like the color of a car I found on another lot, where an arrogant know-it-all kept trying to tell me what I ought to want instead of listening to what I actually want. He so persistently pushed me toward the fuddy-duddy side of the lot that I pushed back and insisted on driving a nearly-new sporty model I can't possibly afford. Driving that car made my heart sing, and not just because it's red. I wanted to buy it because it has great pick-up, because it feels fun, and because it would show that arrogant so-and-so that I can't be confined to the fuddy-duddy side of the lot.

However, a car that low-slung would never survive our bumpy driveway, which gave me a good reason to reject it. But at least I know where to go if I'm overcome by a desire to buy a fuddy-duddy car from a patronizing salesman.

I know the right car for me is out there somewhere. I just hope I can keep the irrational urges in check until it comes my way.

Nesting instinct

Last week at Bernheim Arboretum and Research Forest my AP roommate and I scurried through what looked like a giant bird's nest, a maze made of bent twigs. It was designed for smaller people so I had to stoop to get through (which seriously slowed down my scurrying). It was about as much fun as I've ever had in a giant nest.

However, I never once considered sleeping in it. 

Now comes word from the New York Times about the rise of twigitecture (read it here), or the art of building nests for human habitation. Some are made of found materials while others are more ornate (and pricey), but these nests look really cool. I can see using a human-sized bird's nest as a child's playhouse or as a daytime retreat, but I'm still not tempted to sleep in a nest. Birds line nests with bits of down and fluff to make them comfy, but there's not enough down and fluff to make me relax enough to sleep in a tree.

I have slept on the ground in the woods (in a tent, on an air mattress), but the great thing about sleeping on the ground is that you don't have far to fall--and if you happen to be subject to sleepwalking, falling is a constant concern. I once woke up to find myself standing on a chair and taking down my curtains, which means that I moved the chair and climbed up on it in my sleep. Try doing that in a nest up a tree. 

Beds are made for fools like me, but only birds can sleep in a tree.

Last year our Christmas wreath was decorated with a beautiful woven nest my husband found on a limb that blew down in a wind storm. It was a marvel of workmanship, a delicate little cup woven by a tiny creature without the benefit of higher education. For a bird, making a nest is hard work, and if the result looks like art, I am only too happy to admire it. But sleep in a nest? That's for the birds.   

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Wrens' world

A Carolina Wren perches on a post giving me the evil eye and opens its beak to hurl shrill curses my way--probably trying to distract me from its mate stealthily carrying a tasty-looking grub to the nestlings. From the sounds of it, the nest must be located somewhere inside the recycling shed, but I don't want to disturb the brood so I leave the shed unexplored.

They've nested there before, perhaps not these same wrens but others like them, and every year they learn to tolerate my presence as long as I don't get too close. A worried wren perches on the deck post finials and look sternly my way as if preparing to deliver a fire-and-brimstone sermon, or else it shifts around to call out those piercing notes in all directions before ducking into the shed. If I sit out there with a book, they'll punctuate each paragraph with a shriek or a buzz and they won't shut up until I get up to leave.

But that's fine with me. With their perky little tails and their piercing shrieks, they're highly amusing company for a slow, silent summer day.


Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Strictly weedcentric

After a week of essay-reading, a day in transit, and three days of working indoors while waiting for the rain to stop, I woke to find a lovely clear day and bounded right down to the garden to see what's up.

Short answer: everything. I picked radishes and lettuce this morning but left some lovely heads of broccoli to mature for a few more days, and while weeding the carrot patch, I accidentally pulled up an infant carrot. There's no point in wasting a perfectly good carrot no matter how small, so I brushed off the dirt and popped the baby carrot into my mouth. Sweet and earthy, with a tangy aftertaste. I want more!

And it looks like I'll get my wish, provided that I can make some headway against the weeds. Yes, I'm entering the weedcentric part of my summer: stoop and pull, stoop and pull, stoop and pull some more. I'd hoped to get some hoe action today but hoeing wet ground is a hassle. But hey, I'll hoe some mo' tomorrow. (Stop me before I start to rap!)

The next big chore is tying up tomato plants to stakes, a great opportunity to spend some time inhaling the wonderful aroma that carries the promise of tomatoes. With my hands in the dirt, the sun on my back, and the taste of baby carrot in my mouth, I could work out there forever.

Or until the flies start biting--whichever comes first.




Monday, June 17, 2013

Entering the Sexist-Car-Salesman Circle of Hell

Twenty-five years ago in Kentucky I was looking at cars when a salesman, an older guy in a seersucker suit, put a patronizing hand on my arm and said, "Well now honey, why don't you come back when your husband can come with you?"

I didn't, needless to say. I bought a car elsewhere. But that was 25 years ago! In Kentucky! Surely times have changed!

Not much.

So I'm trying to buy a car. My Volvo's transmission is getting ready to fail (maybe tomorrow, maybe next week, maybe next year) and while I love my Volvo, I draw the line at putting a new transmission in a car with 258,000 miles on it. (And no cup holders.) So I have started looking for a new(er) car, a process that might take months but that starts with visits to a few car lots so I can see what's out there at what kind of price.

I intend to do some serious online searching soon, but first I wanted to get some face-time with various models, to get a good look at back seats and slam some doors to see how solid the cars feel. So I went to a used-car lot, where I got a lot of attention from a very pleasant salesperson who actually listened to what I was asking for (unlike the guy back in Kentucky, 25 years ago, who, after I told him I wanted a used minivan, showed me a new Thunderbird). 

Then I went to the local Toyota dealership. Big mistake. I wandered around looking at very nice cars for a good 20 minutes, and I even told an official-looking person that I need to buy a car (in case it wasn't obvious from the rattletrap nature of my current ride), but he just smiled pleasantly and walked away. I assumed he was going inside to alert a salesperson to my needs, but no one ever came anywhere near me.

It's true that I was wearing jeans and a T-shirt, and it's true that my husband didn't come with me (because this is my car I'm looking for--and besides, he's out of town), and it's true that a person who drives an 18-year-old beater might not appear to be in a position to purchase a car, but guess what? I'm still a customer.

Or I could have been if they hadn't ignored me.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Back home for the win!

Nothing against Louisville, but I'm happy to be home! Top ten reasons:

10. Fresh lettuce from the garden and home-grown horseradish on bratwurst for lunch.

9. A list of chores--pruning azaleas, pinching basil buds, weeding rows of beans--that will take me out into the sunshine (as soon as the rain lets up).

8. A whole family of house finches gathering around the birdfeeder all at once.

7. Hopeful's expectant expression after she corners a chipmunk just out of reach and waits for it to fall or leap back into chasing range.

6. Reading the Sunday Columbus Dispatch on my comfy sofa is SOOOO much more pleasant than reading student essays in a big harshly-lit room full of straight-backed chairs.

5. Especially if I'm also listening to the Cleveland Indians on the radio.

4. With AP grading behind me, I can look ahead and plan our next canoeing outing and a visit to baby Elizabeth.

3. My son's new haircut and his quirky take on news of the world.

2. I may not have piles of pillows or invisible maids to fluff them up, but there's nothing better than sleeping in my very own bed.

1. With my very own husband.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Nestled in the nexus of vectors

I sit in a sofa suspended above the street and contemplate the vectors of motion surrounding me. 

I'm in a sofa, yes, and stationary, but all around me I see movement. The sofa stands on a stretch of carpet that looks like the result of an explosion at a paint factory, and the carpet covers the floor of a walkway stretching above Fourth Street to connect the two towers of the Galt House. I'm facing roughly east(ish) while a steady stream of AP readers and others walk or saunter or limp or scuttle east or west, some stopping to sit or chat or belly up to the bar across the way.

Below me traffic moves north and south, and up above I see in the Galt House windows reflections of clouds looking like the sails of tall ships blowing past.  Sometimes a rising elevator slices through the sails.

To my left a group of fuzzy pastel pocket quail flutter about without any apparent awareness of traffic patterns or prevailing winds. They sit and roost or swirl and spiral, ensconced within their own little world.

I came here seeking isolation, a perverse desire considering that I sit at the nexus of so many vectors of motion, but the random human chatter and movement create a bubble of white noise I find oddly soothing. Today I read 325 essays, a feat that left me bereft of all sense. Last night my rooommate and I drove south to hike in a research forest,  stretching our muscles and resting our eyes on woods and water and swooping purple martins,  but today I begged off any more activity. Instead, I sit ensconced in my bubble and consider the quail.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

My portable happy place

When my eyes grow blurry and my mind grows dull and I find myself reading the same paragraph over and over and over, I look up from my stack of student essays at the framed photo standing in front of me and I silently plead, "Help me, Baby-Wan. You're my only hope!"

Bringing along a photo of my daughter and granddaughter is the smartest thing I've done for this AP reading. Inside the room are hundreds of people silently nodding over essay after essay after essay, some inspired and some quite good but many simply mediocre, and I turn into a grading machine, open read read read shut bubble open the next one and start over, so it's easy to get sucked into the fog and haze and lose touch with reality.

But then I look up and see my adorable daughter and granddaughter and I'm transported to a world full of smiles and wiggles and overwhelming cuteness, and it's a very happy place. That's where you'll find me when the haze starts settling in. Don't look at the essays--look at the baby. Smile at the baby. Sometimes I think I see her smiling back.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

How to make a room full of English teachers laugh until they cry

Invite Taylor Mali to perform his poem "The The Impotence of Proofreading" (read it here--although it's better in performance).

I ought to insert a [sic] into that title, but I would need a [sic] for every line of the poem (and sometimes several per line) and I can't [sic] that many [sic]s on poor Taylor's poem.

Sunday, June 09, 2013

Settling into my secret mission

So here I am once again huddled together with a thousand or so people in an undisclosed location (Louisville) performing clandestine tasks (reading essays) for an unmentionable organization (AP), and I can't really say what I'm reading about but I'm seeing much more variety than I did in last year's essays and for that I can only say Hurrah.

In fact, Louisville is better all around this year, and not just because I know what I'm doing this time. The weather is better--hot but not too muggy, with a nice cooling breeze so I can walk along the river without melting (although the traffic sounds are still annoying).  I have a terrific roommate and some really fun tablemates, and AP gave us fleece blankets to keep the chill off in the big horrible reading room. 

So I'm surviving. So far. One day in and I haven't run screaming from the room--yet. Kind of getting the hang of it. In fact, I don't want this to get out but I may actually enjoy this work. So far. Ask me again a week from now and I may have another story entirely. If I'm able to speak at all.  

Saturday, June 08, 2013

A serpentine mystery

What would it take to build an earthen mound that would last 900 years? It has to be only three feet tall (ish) but stretch 1300 feet from end to end--and not in a straight line, either. Make it serpentine, with a spiral of coils on one end and an ambiguous arrangement of shapes on the other (head and eye? mouth eating sun?), and make sure the head aligns with the summer solstice while the remaining coils indicate other important astronomical points. Oh, and build it on top of a remote hillside, where every ounce of dirt will have to be carried and put in place by hand.

I couldn't do it, but somebody did and it's still a sight to see 900 years later. I've driven past the sign pointing toward Great Serpent Mound several times but today I decided to break up my drive to Louisville with a visit to the serpent (links here). Only two cars in the parking lot, only me and a family walking around the effigy mound that overlooks rolling hills.
It's beautiful, but what is it for? Art? Science? Sacred space? Excavations have yielded little information, but someone must have been highly motivated to make it happen, and others have been motivated to prevent it from eroding away. 

Could the Native Americans who built this mound have imagined that it would last 900 years and provide a respite for traveling strangers? Would they be appalled at our tromping over their serpent or appreciate our wonder? What is this doing here?

I asked the snake but apparently the cat's got his tongue. (Or her tongue? Who knows?)  

Friday, June 07, 2013

A little automotive motivation

When I asked my mechanic whether I ought to drive my Volvo to Louisville this weekend, he laughed out loud. Snorted, in fact. "You've already driven that car farther than I would drive it with a leaky head gasket," he said.

I was a little offended on behalf of my trusty and beloved Volvo, but he has a point. Do I really want to find myself stranded in Podunkville, Kentucky, with a fused engine block? No I do not--and besides, AP is paying reasonable travel expenses. So I rented a car, a silver Volkswagen Jetta that is already wooing me away from clunker-mania.

It's not perfect: I can't comfortably rest my elbow on the window frame, and the seatbelt rubs my neck in a way that's bound to get annoying during a 300-mile drive. But on the other hand, everything works. Let me say that again: Everything (!!) works (!!!!).

The cruise control works. The seat tilts and shifts easily (although it won't rise up any higher, which would help with the seatbelt problem). The radio comes on and stays on without randomly shifting to CD whenever the air is a little damp. The AC works. The fan works without sounding like someone's shaking a coffee can full of pebbles. The gas gauge works, like, all the time, so I don't have to guess how far I can go before running out. The windows open--and shut! The wipers work, and I can even squirt wiper fluid on the windows with a flick of a switch instead of reaching a Windex bottle out an open window. 

Automatic door locks? Check. Broken headlights? Not a one. Floor mats? Clean, although not for long if the weather stays wet. And--get this--it has cup holders. Yes! Cup holders! How have I lived without them for so long?

After driving this Jetta for a week, I'm bound to resist readjusting to my 1995 Volvo. Problems I've learned to live with will suddenly become unbearable, and then what will I do? I can't keep the Jetta, and I can't replace the Volvo right now.

But a girl can dream, can't she? All I have to do before I can buy a new(er) car is pay off one more ugly chunk of debt--which is why I'll be spending the next week shut inside an immense torture chamber with 1000 other English professors reading AP essays. Maybe I should take along a photo of my Volvo just to remind me why I'm doing this, a little automotive motivation. If reading AP essays doesn't drive me crazy, it may at least drive me toward new wheels. 

And cup holders. Did I mention the cup holders?  

Thursday, June 06, 2013

Whole lot o' deleting going on

Junk (delete), junk (delete), junk (delete)--but wait, what's this? A request to serve as an external reviewer for a friend seeking tenure at another institution. I've never done that before but yes of course I'm delighted to do it, just a little nervous about doing it well. I'll save that one.

Junk junk junk (delete delete delete). Request to serve at a college function while I'm out of town next week (delete). Lunch invitation--always welcome!

Notice from the local birding group about a trip I would like to attend but can't (delete). Multiple posts from an academic listserv from which I can't figure out how to unsubscribe (delete). Friendly message from textbook rep wanting to send me books I don't need (delete). Request to connect on LinkedIn with someone whose name I don't recognize (delete). Direct deposit notice that ought to go to my husband's e-mail address but comes to mine instead for reasons I no longer recall (save).

Message telling me my auto warranty is expiring, which is pretty ludicrous considering my newer car is 18 years old (delete). Photo of a loon sent by member of local birding group (view, delete). Message inviting me to apply for a particular grant (interesting--save and star). "Strictly confidential" message from person wanting to send me forty million dollars (ha! delete). Junk junk junk (delete delete delete).

No, I don't need any Viagra today, thanks (delete), and I send flowers maybe twice a year so I really don't need to send an ad to my inbox Every. Single. Day (delete). I'm not sending anyone my user name and password via e-mail (delete), but here's one from our campus instructional technology expert asking me to change my password on Livetext (comply, delete). 

Final instructions for the AP reading I'm attending next week (read, save). Invitation to retirement party for colleague that I can't attend (delete, make note to send card). Cheerful update from friend traveling in Europe (read, respond). Ooh, readers commenting on my blog! (Read, respond). More offers for Viagra (seriously? Delete) and more junk junk junk (delete delete delete).

It took a while but my inbox is down to nearly nothing, but what do I have to show for all that work? A whole lot o' nothing.


Tuesday, June 04, 2013

Call me the Undecider

Juvenile cormorant unconcerned about e-mail
The time has come to make a decision about whether to upgrade my home internet service. Unless it hasn't. I don't know. Maybe I should be happy that I have any connection at all, unreliable or not. Maybe I'm too demanding. Or maybe it's time for a change. The fact that I don't know whether it's time to make a decision suggests that I'm not ready to make a decision, but that doesn't make the decision any easier to make. If you know what I mean.

I don't know whether my service is getting worse or I'm just getting less patient with it, but yesterday I tried to post some interesting stuff and all I got was disconnected--repeatedly. Couldn't even check my e-mail. This morning I had no problem checking my e-mail, but only one message (out of 24) was not junk. Is it worth the expense of upgrading my service just so I can receive one non-junk e-mail message? On the other hand, if my service were faster, I could find out much more quickly that my e-mail isn't worth checking. Less time waiting for a strong connection would mean more time to devote to more important tasks.

Like what, exactly? It's summer, a time when I cherish inaccessibility. Yesterday my husband and I spent the morning paddling around on a remote lake where the only sounds were birdcalls and the wind in the trees and an occasional trolling motor--until we were startled by a tinny jangling over near shore. A woman in a fishing boat pulled out her cell phone and her chattering carried well over the still water. Who takes a cell phone out fishing? (Um, we do. Keep it in the drybox to use in case of emergency.) 

The whole point of getting out on the water is inaccessibility, but when I get home, I want to be able to check my e-mail (for more junk) and post photos (even if no one out there is looking at them). And I get frustrated when it doesn't work.

For several years now we've been hearing promises about a big state grant that will make low-cost broadband service available throughout the county "except in certain remote pockets." Guess who lives in a remote pocket of the county? That would be me. We can't even get cable television without paying to run the lines a mile or so, while monthly costs for satellite service are outrageous. So we make do with a wireless modem that sort of works some of the time but when it doesn't work I get annoyed.

But am I annoyed enough to make a change? Sometimes, but the feeling tends to pass. So maybe I'm not yet ready to make a decision--which itself is a sort of decision. I really ought to do something about this, but right now I think I'd rather look at birds.